The parasha this week warns Israel of exile from the Land if they are unfaithful.
Last year, as I do every year, I took a group of teenagers to the Oregon Holocaust Memorial at Washington Park. While talking about the 2000 years of Jewish persecution, one of the parents commented, "They really got what they deserved!" It is true that the exile is a punishment for disobedience. It is written in Leviticus 18. But, as I explained to that parent, if I kick my young adult son from the house for constant disobedience, my punishment for him was just to be exiled from my house. It does not give license for all the neighbors to come and beat him up. If that happens, I will come to his defense.
"'Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, because all the nations which I am expelling ahead of you are defiled with them. The land has become unclean, and this is why I am punishing it -- the land itself will vomit out its inhabitants. But you are to keep my laws and rulings and not engage in any of these disgusting practices, neither the citizen nor the foreigner living with you; for the people of the land have committed all these abominations, and the land is now defiled. If you make the land unclean, it will vomit you out too, just as it is vomiting out the nation that was there before you. (Lev 18:24-28 CJB)
This haftarah section reminds Israel of what HaShem warned them of in Leviticus 18.
SETTING THE STAGE
We are at the time of Jeroboam II, nearly two centuries after the first Jeroboam installed golden calves, altars in Beth-El and Dan, a priesthood ("lewd fellows of the baser sort," as it is said in the KJV), changed the dates of the festivals, and forbade people to go back to Jerusalem.
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings. (1Ki 12:25-33 ESV)
At the time of Jeroboam II, despite an optimistic climate of fortune and frontier, Israel had strayed far from her covenant with HaShem. Syncretism and idolatry remained the normative religions in Israel. Baal worship, once mandated as the state religion under Ahab and Jezebel, continued to exert an influence in Israel.
THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS UNDER JEROBOAM II THAT ANGERED HASHEM
- A system of social injustice oppressing the poor and the foreigner
- Courts and judges were bribed
- The poor and lower classes were taken advantage of
As individuals and as a country, it is always good to study the particulars and specifics of the social climate of such a government and see if it applies to us and our country, whatever country we are in. In the world of Jeroboam II, the wealthy mortgaged out and foreclosed on the inheritance of the Lord, dispossessing the poor and the disadvantaged (D. Lancaster).
It is in this intolerable social climate that HaShem sent his prophet Amos with a call for social justice. Unlike many other prophets, Amos was not of a priestly lineage but was a shepherd from the small Judean town of Tekoa.
The word pronounced against Israel was a reminder that when it comes to disobedience, Israel does not have preferred status. He is just like any other nation.
NO PREFERENTIAL STATUS
It is easy for believers to assume a status of favorites that places them above the law. At the beginning of this oracle, HaShem wants to dismiss this notion. He does so by using a little rhetorical device in the prophecy. He asks Israel a series of three questions that infer a "yes" answer. He asks:
“Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?”
. . .
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor
and the Syrians from Kir?
(Amo 9:7 ESV)
In a sense, HaShem says, "Oh yes, I took you out of Egypt with a great and mighty arm, but I did the same for other people. You are like a "Cushite" (Ethiopian) who stands out when in the midst of Egyptians, just like you stood out as different when you were in Egypt. I also brought the Philistine from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir and settled them in their own lands too. So don't think that you are so special that you are above the reach of divine retribution. " HaShem speaks to Israel using the following words,
The eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
Israel will be punished like any other nation, with the exception that,
I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the LORD.
(Amo 9:8 ESV)
HaShem describes what He will do to Israel using familiar agricultural terms.
“For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
As a winnower shakes the chaff through a sieve, HaShem will cause the wicked to "die by the sword" in exile (v.10), while as the sieves retain the kernel of grain, the righteous will be preserved. No kernel will fall to the ground.
TIMING OF THE ORACLE
A peek into the future:
“In that day . . .
In the day of that said exile:
. . . . I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins and rebuild it
as in the days of old,
(Amo 9:10-11 ESV)
. . .
Amos was looking to the time when the physical and spiritual Davidic dynasty would be re-established. David built a Tabernacle in Jerusalem where he housed the ark. His Tabernacle established worship through song and praise (2 Sam 6 and 1 Chron 16). Following the reign of Solomon, the tabernacle of David for one united Israel was forgotten. Our prophet Amos saw the reunification of Israel under the Messianic Davidic King: Yeshua. As Amos saw the restoration of the Davidic Tabernacle, he also saw the purpose of the whole plan of God with Israel, the bringing of the Gentiles unto the God of Israel.
that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this. (Amo 9:12 ESV)
When Paul brought Titus, a Greek disciple, to the disciples in Jerusalem as proof of the work HaShem was doing with the Gentiles in Jerusalem, the disciples wondered if the Greeks should be required to convert to Judaism. The answer was a resounding no. This answer was given on the strength of the verse in Amos 9:11-12.
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God... (Act 15:13-19 ESV)
As we learn with the end of the Egyptian and Babylonian exile, the main purpose in HaShem miraculously delivering the Jews is a witness to the nations of His greatness.
Our prophet was therefore seeing all the way to the days of the apostles when they received the commission to go into all world to teach about the God Israel and about Yeshua. He even saw all the way to the abundance and richness of the Messianic era, a time when Amos says that the one reaping will still be at work trying to gather in the abundance of the harvest when it is time for plowing and sowing again. An idea that alludes to the abundance of the Messianic Age.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amo 9:13-14 ESV)
As a proof that HaShem will not totally eradicate Israel, he prophecies of a time when Israel will be safe and prosperous in its own land.
I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amo 9:15 ESV)
To this, Paul speaks words containing a serious warning for those who trying to deny the place of Israel in the redemption of humanity:
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
. . .
For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Rom 11:11-21 ESV)
A MIDRASH SET IN "STONE!"
Once there was a king who was sought to build a palace. He began to dig, going further down, to lay a foundation, but he found only swampy soil. And so it was in many places. He was not able to build until he dug in one place, and there he found bedrock (petra, פטרא). Thus he said, “I am building and placing foundations here,” and he built. So too, the Holy One, blessed be He, sought to create the world. He was sitting and scrutinizing the generation of Enosh and the generation of the flood, and He said, “Why should I create the world and let those wicked men arise and vex me?” But when the Holy One, blessed be He, saw Abraham arise in the future, he said, “Behold, I have found a rock (petra) to build upon and to lay the foundation of the world.” Thus he called Abraham “Rock,” as it says [in Isaiah 51:1-2], “Look to the rock from which you were hewn.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar, 23:766)
(Also click HERE and HERE for more interesting articles on the "Rock" of Israel.
Thus, Jews are the biological seed of Abraham; Gentiles, the spiritual seed of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth are blessed. So whether Jew or Gentile,
THE ROCK FROM WHICH WE WERE CUT
THE QUARRY FROM WHICH WE WERE DUG!